Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Barbara Smith

Born in Cleveland, Smith was raised in a working-class extended family that had earlier migrated from Georgia to Ohio. Coming of age during the protest era of the 1960s, she and her twin sister Beverly were active in racial justice struggles while still in high school. Excelling in school, she attended Mount Holyoke College, where she continued her activism, and settled in Boston after college. There she helped establish a chapter of the National Black Feminist Organization; the chapter later became its own independent organization, The Combahee River Collective. Identifying as black, feminist, and socialist, it wrote a “Statement” that became one of the most influential essays on identity politics from that era. Later, in 1980, she co-founded Kitchen Table Press, which published the writings of women of color, including now classic books like This Bridge Called My Back. A collection of her own essays, The Truth That Never Hurts, came out in 1998; the title essay is an exploration of black lesbians in fiction. In 2005 and again in 2009, Smith was elected to the city council of Albany New York, where she continues to fight for a progressive social justice politics.